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January 31st 2010 print

Merv Bendle

Islam, academia, and freedom

It is a strange paradox of the post-9/11 era that such a dastardly and devastating declaration of war by Islamism against the Western world led not to a hardening of resolve by the victims but to a widespread capitulation to Muslim demands across the globe.

It is a strange paradox of the post-9/11 era that such a dastardly and devastating declaration of war by Islamism against the Western world (reinforced by innumerable subsequent attacks) led not to a hardening of resolve by the victims but to a widespread capitulation to Muslim demands across the globe, especially in the very societies that Islamist jihadis have explicitly targeted for destruction. This cowardly posture is most noticeable amongst the intelligentsia and within the education system and means that we have had to rely on independent scholars and courageous journalists to develop a critical debate, when we should have been able to rely on our universities and research centres. 

This capitulation is most obvious in the UK, but is also very apparent in the US, Canada, Europe, and Australia, where the battle is being lost in the areas of academic research, public policy, education, ideology, law, human rights, and particularly in the realm of free speech. Internationally, this process has been illuminated by various authors, including Melanie Phillips, Londonistan: How Britain is Creating a Terror State Within (2006); Bat Ye’or Eurabia: The Euro-Arab Axis (2005); Patrick Sookhdeo, Global Jihad: The Future in the Face of Militant Islam (2007); Steven Emerson, American Jihad: The Terrorists Living Amongst Us (2002) and Jihad Incorporated: A Guide to Militant Islam in the US (2006); Robert Spencer, Onward Muslim Soldiers: How Jihad Still Threatens America and the West (2003) and Stealth Jihad: How Radical Islam is Subverting America Without Guns or Bombs (2008); Kenneth Timmerman, Preachers of Hate: Islam and the War on America (2003); Walid Phares, Future Jihad: Terrorist Strategies Against America (2005) and The War of Ideas: Jihadism Against Democracy (2007); and Jamie Glazov, United in Hate: The Left’s Romance With Tyranny and Terror (2009). These are complemented by various private think tanks, and activist grassroots organizations, including FrontPageMag.com and Jihad Watch, which make good use of the Internet. 

In Australia, this type of Internet infrastructure is developing quickly, with Quadrant Online, The Australian Islamist Monitor, and the Australian Conservative providing alternative perspectives, while notable publications include Martin Chulov, Australian Jihad: The Battle Against Terrorism From Within and Without (2006); David Claydon (ed.) Islam, Human Rights and Public Policy (2009); Mark Durie, The Third Choice: Islam, Dhimmitude and Freedom (2010); and various articles in Quadrant and elsewhere, in including some by myself: “Secret Saudi Funding of Radical Islamic Groups in Australia”, National Observer, 72, Autumn 2007; “Seduction of Saudi Cash is Faustian Pact for Unis”, The Australian, 29 April 2008; “Hijacking Terrorism Studies”, Quadrant, September 2008; “How to be a ‘Useful Idiot’: Saudi Funding in Australia: Part II” National Observer, 77, Winter 2008; “Hijacking Terrorism Studies”, Quadrant, September 2008; and “Terrorism and the Rise of Radical Orthodoxy”, Quadrant, December, 2008. 

As the above citations indicate, much of this vital work is being done by scholars, journalists, and activists working outside of or in defiance of the university systems of the West, a situation that epitomizes the scale and nature of the surrender by Western institutions and their leadership to Militant Islam. In the UK, US, and Europe, efforts to bring a critical debate to university campuses are routinely shut down by university administrators or by radical student action sanctioned by the authorities. Legal action has also been taken against critics under laws specifically designed to silence them. (In my own case, I was threatened several times with legal action, and attempts were made to have me sacked. No efforts were made to address the issues in academic debate.) 

Internationally, at the level of government funding, many hundreds of millions (indeed probably billions) of dollars have been spent globally to establish various centres for Islamic, Middle East, and Arabic studies, all taking a generally sympathetic line on the (largely self-imposed) situation of Islam in the world today. This financial largesse extends to Australia, where vast amounts of scarce tertiary funds have been expended over the past few years to establish such organizations around the country (often bearing the gratuitous managerialist label ‘centre of excellence’). Unfortunately, the result has generally not been any noticeable level of academic excellence but only academic opportunism, along with the empowerment of radical Islamist groups and front men, and the ideological subversion of the military, police forces, security agencies, and domestic and foreign policy development at both the state and federal levels. This process has accelerated under the various Labor governments, which must cater to the various lobbyists and pressure groups that control them. 

Above all, these centres have brought no significant diversity of views, nor have they promoted robust public debate on Islam, Islamism, Jihadism, and terrorism. Instead they have further entrenched the untenable leftist position that (a) there is no problem; (b) if there is a problem it’s Islamophobia; (c), any problem is the fault of the US and the West; and (d), we had it coming anyway. When these centres do speak out, it is inevitably to attack the West, to mouth platitudes about the need for tolerance and understanding (i.e., of Muslims only), and to provide (on cue) predictable apologia for the ongoing terrorist outrages, human rights violations, and attacks on free speech that emanate from the Muslim world. 

In the face of such a bleak situation it is encouraging that Australia is capable of producing at least some courageous independent scholars who are prepared to tackle the challenges of Islamism and Jihadism head-on. David Claydon’s recent book brings together a range of useful articles, while Mark Durie’s new book The Third Choice: Islam, Dhimmitude and Freedom, analyzes the fundamental Islamic principle that non-Muslims have three choices: embrace Islam, be killed, or live as subservient and tax-paying dhimmis in a Sharia-dominated world. It has been published to a chorus of enthusiastic previews by prominent figures in the field, including Robert Spencer, whose edited book, The Myth of Islamic Tolerance: How Islamic Law Treats Non-Muslims (2005), covers some of the same territory. Durie holds a PhD from ANU in linguistics and is an expert in the indigenous cultures in Aceh, Indonesia, while also being a trained theologian and vicar of St Mary’s Anglican Church in Caulfield, Victoria. His previous book was Revelation – Do We Worship the Same God? (2006), which boldly confronts the claim – bizarrely common in different ways to religious pluralism, theological liberalism, and Islam – that Christianity and Islam are orientated to the same god. This is an issue that has just gained renewed currency with the violent controversy in Malaysia about the right of Christians to continue to use the Malaysian word for word Allah to refer to their god in their Malaysian- language bibles and liturgies. 

Unfortunately, these efforts are – as yet – only a few bright sparks in the darkness of self-imposed scholarly silence that has enveloped the academic and public debate on Islam, Islamism, Jihadism, and terrorism. Until the stranglehold of this carefully calibrated political correctness is broken Australia and the West will continue to lurch along, reacting blindly and ineptly to the challenges thrown up to us by our enemies as they seek to bring about our destruction.